Forever stuck…

trappedMy thumb grazed over the edge of my coffee mug, stare distant and unfocused. To him, I was watching traffic through the window. But I wasn’t sitting beside him anymore. I was miles upon miles away, walking down dusty roads. I couldn’t smell the stagnant, seasoned air of the café, but the fresh, piney air of Maryland and Virginia.
My heart squeezed once more as a speeding car passed across my line of sight and threatened to shatter the peaceful illusion I could have stayed moored in for hours. We were waiting for our food, but I was waiting for an escape.
That excursion away from home did so much more for my soul than I would ever let on. All my life, I had known nothing but the deep south, of the balmy sea breezes and touristy towns that lined the coast. I hadn’t known mountains and creeks, deep valleys and thick woods that were filled with mysteries. I had been scared of the unknown, terrified of what lay beyond my comfort zone. I spent my days between four walls and along one crowded road, trapped in a cage I had designed only in my own head. I thought if I ventured too far without him, I’d be lost.
But I discovered something so crucial and earth-shaking. I didn’t become lost.
I had been found.
“So how was work yesterday?” he asked.
I pulled myself unwillingly from the light of my revelation and turned my eyes back to his. “Fine. Nothing new.”
“Did you get everything straightened out from while you were gone?”
I only nodded and cast my gaze down to the half-empty mug. I hated the way I had become so aloof, so disconnected from him ever since I came back. He missed me more than he would ever admit. I knew that in the way he held me so tight, as if I’d run away again. I saw it in how he showered me with affection and caresses as if he were trying to make up for a lifetime of being apart, when it had only been a week.
I still loved him, and I missed him on those long nights spent alone in the hotel rooms when I had nothing to occupy my mind, no one to hold. He was still my rock, my safe harbor. But I hesitated to tie myself to his docks. It wasn’t until the night before that I had realized why.
“You know all that stuff we share to each other about our signs?” I asked, seemingly out of the blue.
I could feel his stare narrow upon me in confusion. “Yeah?”
“You know how mine always says that a Sagittarius can be adventurous and love to travel?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, and you always balk at the idea of getting an RV like I want.”
“I still don’t, but…” I paused, trying to think of a way to say it without hurting his feelings. “I still want to travel, I guess. I didn’t before, but now I do.”
I looked up and saw his blank face, so void of expression that I wondered if he would change the subject again. He did that whenever I’d try to delve further into our psyches, whenever I tried to have a serious conversation that didn’t have to do with tabletop games or work or the dogs. Light subjects or whatever he was interested in. Nothing about me. And I kept it that way on purpose, because I knew he didn’t really want to hear me complain. I invited him to enough pity-parties that he knew when to steer the topic away from how I truly felt.
So I had bottled it all up, until now.
“Traveling always stressed me out, but I wonder if… if it was just the idea of traveling somewhere I didn’t want to go that bothered me. Like, when we took those trips to see your family. I didn’t want to go and I hated going, so I couldn’t enjoy it. I… I always had to look to everyone else for what we were going to do next or where we would go, but I was never fully into it. But this big trip… I don’t know, I guess it’s because I was doing what I wanted and went where I pleased on my own time without having to worry about dragging you out of bed or whether you were enjoying yourself or not, so I could relax a little.”
I waited for a response, but he only looked away and took a long draft from his own iced coffee.
“I… I didn’t want to come home. I wanted to keep going to all those places, and you know how I didn’t get to hit those last two parks on the last day. Would you want to go with me next weekend? It’d be a long drive, but I really want to go see them.”
He shrugged. “Maybe.”
Maybe… Always maybe. Or probably. Never a definitive yes or no. Always on the fence, always playing by ear until something came up to ruin it. That’s what today was. I had felt so guilty about spending all that time away that I was willing to give in and go on this weekly date instead of traveling north again to see those last few landmarks. I stayed because he wanted me to. Because he needed me to.
I didn’t want to be dramatic, but I felt like a bird who had just learned to fly and had her wings clipped after the first successful takeoff. I wasn’t afraid to go alone anymore, not afraid to make those plans and see them through. I wasn’t afraid to hop in the car and drive hours and hours just to see what the sunrise looked like in another state.
I was afraid of losing him or making up upset. I didn’t want him to think that I was discontent with our marriage. I wasn’t. I was just discontent with where we were living and our lifestyle. I wanted more freedom, more enrichment. Wasn’t that what zookeepers did for their caged animals? They sprinkled different scents and toys across their enclosure as enrichment so they wouldn’t become bored in captivity.
Well, this beast was bored. And she was ready to break free and demand the right to live as she pleased.
I held her in check, keeping the leash short and taut. But my grip was loosening, my resolve weakening. I was ready to burst into screams or sobs if I couldn’t have some assurance.
“Let’s move,” I declared.
He eyed me. “Where?”
“I don’t know. Tennessee? Virginia?”
A flash of anger made me freeze. “Does this have to do with – “
“No!” I gasped. I knew what he would say and I couldn’t let him think it. “Nothing like that.”
“We can’t move,” he said. “We’re stuck taking care of this house, remember?”
How could I forget? It had been convenient before. It was enough room for us and the dogs. We had a big yard and a pool that he loved to swim in. I only used it twice since we moved in three years ago. I wasn’t one for swimming or beaches, which only fueled my lack of appreciation for Florida. It was too commercialized, too crowded, too hot. I belonged in the mountains where it snowed, but he hated the cold.
I fell silent for a few moments, feeling my spirit crushed under the harsh reality.
For the first time in over five years, I wish I wasn’t married. I wished I wasn’t bound to this place by a job or family or what I thought I wanted. I had mentioned my sign to him before, and I wasn’t exaggerating. It was as if I was finally growing into my sign, coming alive to who I really was and why I had been feeling so aimless and anxious for years. For the first time, I wished that I could break free and run away. Go back north and see the mountains, take my time and do as I wanted without having to worry about a job or anyone waiting for me back home. I wanted to see things, feel them, meet new people for once in my life, and put some experience under my belt. I felt so innocent and naïve, listening to everyone talk about how they had gone to such-and-such and seen things that I only dreamed of.
How long before this discontent would wear off? Would it ever? Could I ever leave again? By the way he had been so miserable without me, by the way my work couldn’t survive one week with an empty office, and by the unfortunate decisions that had been made before this awakening, it seemed unlikely.
I was stuck. Forever rooted in the sands when all I wanted to do was dig my fingers into the rich soil of the mountains. My heart was sick and the only cure was to leave. But I couldn’t. I could never leave.

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About Sheritta Bitikofer

Sheritta Bitikofer is an author of eclectic tastes. When she's not writing her next paranormal or urban fantasy novel, she can be found volunteering at her local animal shelter, shooting archery at a medieval reenactment event, doing Zumba, watching a historical documentary, or having coffee with her husband at their favorite café. A wife and fur-mama to two rescue dogs, she makes time to write engaging and moving stories about shifters, vampires, and magic that enthrall readers from cover to cover.
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